TODAY   |  April 23, 2014

Rossen Reports: ‘Sharing economy’ can bring problems

Millions of people are handing over their car or house keys to a stranger to make money in a “sharing economy” online boom that comes with serious risks. NBC national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen reports.

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>> trusting of people around here?

>> i like to think so.

>> definitely.

>> now to a new "rossing reports," can you trust strangers? more people are doing just that to save a little money. it's a growing trend that does have its dangers. "today" national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is here with the do's and don't's.

>> we may be all very trusting, but when you ask that question to anybody, can you trust strangers, most people i think would automatically say, well, i wouldn't with my wife or with my home. our parents teach us from a very early age to stay away from strangers. never get into their cars or allow them into our homes. but now we are doing both, sharing our homes and our cars with a catch. we want quick cash for it. move over , craigslist, it's the new online boom. but how safe is it? today, convenience is king. don't want to pay for an expensive car service ? there's an app for that. called lyft.

>> hi, this is your lyft.

>> a complete stranger pulls up in their own personal car. it's cheaper than a taxi. don't want to pay to kennel your dog? have a stranger pet sit for less, using this app, dogvacay. and the ultimate in sharing, your home. strangers can rent it by the night using this site, air bnb . this couple made $27,000 doing it.

>> this is a good way to --

>> make the house pay for itself.

>> it's a multi-billion-dollar industry called the sharing economy . more and more companies connecting strangers to share, swap, and rent everything from clothes to bikes, to children's toys. the trend even feature fd in the may edition of wired magazine .

>> six million people stayed in air bnbs last year. the company is reportedly worth ten billion dollars, which is bigger than some hotel chains, including hyatt.

>> but all that trust can cause trouble.

>> it was a rancid, disgusting nightmare that evening.

>> reporter: that's aris the teeman, he posted an ad on air bnb offering his apartment for $300 a night. someone took him up on it.

>> i'm a standup comedian. i travel a losmt it seems like a great deal. while you're out, you make some extra money.

>> reporter: but when you came back --

>> the place was destroyed. things were all over the floor. bottles of alcohol. rappers. the furniture had been disassembled, broken. things were moist.

>> reporter: ransacked.

>> ransacked. it was like the apartment itself had been violated.

>> reporter: turns out, those strangers hosted sex parties . ari found the fliers online.

>> you immediately want to curl sba a ball, except there was no clean surface to do so.

>> reporter: air bnb reimbursed ari for damages under its host guarantee program and banned the offending guest. the company telling nbc news, problems for hosts and guests are incredibly rare. we are constantly evaluating new security measures and we have a zero tolerance policy for these issues.

>> it's good to trust people, but not willy nilly. these companies all collect a lot of data about the people who use them, so read up and don't just go in blind.

>> many of these sharing companies are trying to install systems who check up on users. who are they, do they have previous issues. there's only so much they can do. after all, we're dealing with strangers here, and there are growing pains in the sharing economy . the new york attorney general now investigating air bnb . most of the rentals are actually illegal, violating a state law because they're sold by the night instead of by the month. bottom line, do your homework.

>> yeah, definitely.

>> that would be your worst nightmare.

>> especially when you get to the moist part.

>> yeah.

>> ugh.

>> could have left that to the imagination. thank you.

>> by the way, in the beginning, i said share your life. everyone in the studio said share your wife for money. probably just share your life instead of your wife.

>> in south africa too long, my friend.